UK report says robots will have rights By Salamander Davoudi in London Published: December 19 2006 22:01 | Last updated: December 19 2006 22:01 The next time you beat your keyboard in frustration, think of a day where it may be able to sue you for assault. Within 50 years we might even find ourselves standing next to the next generation of vacuum cleaners in the voting booth. Far from being extracts from the extreme end of science fiction, the idea that we may one day give sentient machines the kind of rights traditionally reserved for humans is raised in a British government-commissioned report which claims to be an extensive look into the future. Visions of the status of robots around 2056 have emerged from one of 270 forward-looking papers sponsored by Sir David King, the UK governmentâs chief scientist. The paper covering robotsâ rights was written by a UK partnership of Outsights, the management consultancy, and Ipsos Mori, the opinion research organisation. âIf we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,â said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The idea will not surprise science fiction aficionados. It was widely explored by Dr Isaac Asimov, one of the foremost science fiction writers of the 20th century. He wrote of a society where robots were fully integrated and essential in day-to-day life. In his system, the âthree laws of roboticsâ governed machine life. They decreed that robots could not injure humans, must obey orders and protect their own existence â in that order. Robots and machines are now classed as inanimate objects without rights or duties but if artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, the report argues, there may be calls for humansâ rights to be extended to them. It is also logical that such rights are meted out with citizensâ duties, including voting, paying tax and compulsory military service. Mr Christensen said: âWould it be acceptable to kick a robotic dog even though we shouldnât kick a normal one? âThere will be people who canât distinguish that so we need to have ethical rules to make sure we as humans interact with robots in an ethical manner so we do not move our boundaries of what is acceptable.â The Horizon Scan report argues that if âcorrectly managedâ, this new world of robotsâ rights could lead to increased labour output and greater prosperity. âIf granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,â it says. But it points out that the process has casualties and the first one may be the environment, especially in the areas of energy and waste.